The key to longevity, performance, and productivity
Sleep is by far the most overlooked, underrated piece of health, performance, productivity, etc. etc. The list goes on. Here is a quick thought for you. Why do humans sleep? From an evolutionary perspective it makes no sense if it wasn’t absolutely vital to health. Looking back to primitive times, when we were sleeping we were vulnerable to prey, we weren’t gathering food or water for survival, and it is metabolically demanding. These are the three most common things that drove human evolution. So for natural selection to choose sleep as an important human function says a lot about its importance. Yet, Americans are chronically under slept. Over 50 years ago studies showed the average American slept 7.9 hours per night. Now, the number is down to around 6 hour per night. That’s 1-2 hour below the recommended minimum and that’s the AVERAGE. Meaning plenty of people are sleeping even less than that. When you consider the CDC actually classifies shift work and sleep deprivation as probable causes of cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, and other diseases you can understand how lack of sleep contributes to an incredibly unhealthy, sick society.
Let’s take a look at 10 facts about sleep that will blow your mind.
- Sleeping under 6 hours results in a 30% reduction in time to physical exhaustion. That’s crazy. If we’re talking about a 20 minute AMRAP, you’re physically exhausted 14 minutes in vs 20 on your best day. This same sleep deprivation even reduces your power outside – you’re literally weaker on days you don’t sleep.
- 20 hours of wakefulness results in the same physical impairment as being legally drunk. Think about that next time you’re on the road. Tired driving is actually the leading cause of death in teenagers followed by suicide. Surgeons who work a 20-30 hour shift are 170% more likely to make a mistake and 150% more likely to get into an accident on their drive home. *Fun fact – 20-30 hours shifts for surgeons and doctors became popular because the doctor at John’s hopkins who developed residency would do cocaine under the radar to keep himself awake, and would expect his resident doctors to work the same crazy hours. The hours became the standard in the field.
- Medical Doctors spend a total of 2 hours learning about sleep in medical school. It’s not common practice for sleep to be prescribed as treatment even though it is absolutely critical to health.
- Shift work is considered a probable cause of cancer. Diabetes, and other diseases by the CDC due to irregular sleep patterns. One of the most important aspects of sleep is regularity – waking up and going to bed at the same time every day. We were meant to sleep at least 2 hours before midnight.
- Alcohol and other drugs can prevent you from getting into REM Sleep. REM sleep is the stage at which you dream, but it’s already critical for learning. Studies have been done where some people were taught a skill and deprived of REM sleep and others were given REM. Those with REM sleep could remember the skill, and those who were deprived could not. On top of that, your brain remembers patterns 20 fold faster during sleep than when you are awake practicing. So say you are aiming to improve your power clean. You will replay those patterns in your brain 20x over during your sleep. IF YOU SLEEP! You’re missing out on tons of performance gains if you skip this.
- Hours of sleep and life expectancy are directly correlated. The more sleep you get, the longer you will live on average.
- Lack of sleep directly leads to increased hunger and in turn, potentially weight gain. When you don’t sleep a full night, your leptin (satiety hormone) levels fall and ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels rise, increasing your appetite.
- Adequate sleep improves immune function. You will actually be sick less if you sleep with good quality and quantity. Those annoying colds you get a few times a year might magically disappear with a bit more sleep.
- Light can affect your ability to get to sleep. We are meant to sleep with the moon and rise with the sun. Your circadian rhythm (a fluctuation of hormones that control tired and wakefulness) are partially controlled by light. When it’s dark, melatonin levels rise making you tired. When it’s light, cortisol levels rise making you awake. This is the same reason you don’t want to do a super intense workout before trying to get to sleep – it will raise cortisol levels. As you’re winding down, simply turn off some lights in your house. It will go a long way!
- The notion that less sleep = more time to work = more gets done is NOT factually. In fact, you are far more productive on a full night’s sleep. You can either boil water over medium heat and have it take forever, or turn it up to high and boil it quickly. This is exactly what happens when you sleep – your productivity gets turned to high and you simply will find yourself getting sh*t done!
So… Sleep is critical
That’s why we ask all of our nutrition clients about sleep during check ins. It is way more important that we think!
And if you’re someone who believes they operate well on less than 6 hours of sleep…. you’re mistaken! If you rounded the percentage of people in the world who can function the same on less than 6 hours of sleep to a whole number, you would get 0%. Studies also show we are terrible at predicting our capacity to be productive when we are sleep deprived. It’s just like when people are drunk at a bar as say they’re fine to drive. So while you may feel “fine” you could be a whole lot more productive and feel a whole lot better!
The goal for everyone is to sleep 7-9 hours per night. Doing so will dramatically improve your life. You’re more like to live longer, disease free. You’re also more likely to lift some heavy weights and PR your mile time… you know… if you’re into that sort of thing…
Have questions about sleep or nutrition coaching? Send them my way!
*A large majority of these facts come from Mathew Walker on the Joe Rogan Podcast (episode 1109).
Here are few other links